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ELECTION 2012: The Under-the-Radar State, County, and City Races That Produced Surprising Results

3:08 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Election 2012

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Written by Jessica Luther for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

On Tuesday, high-profile political coverage in the national media was mainly focused on the US presidential election, some Senate and House races, and a few state ballot measures. Yet there were a seemingly endless number of smaller, less-publicized elections for city- and state-level positions, votes on state initiatives that flew under the radar, and city and county decisions that were only covered in local news. I have a collected a fair amount of these at Flyover Feminism, a site for which I am an editor.

Here are a few that deserve more attention:

On the reproductive rights front, Robin Marty has already reported on Florida voters rejecting an amendment that “would have dramatically limited access to safe abortion care by restricting state funding for abortion, though it does not exist, limiting private insurance coverage of abortion care, and stripping privacy rights from teen girls seeking to terminate a pregnancy.” She has also written about Montana voters approving a new law requiring “girls under age 16 who seek an abortion…to notify a parent or seek judicial bypass prior to terminating a pregnancy.”

California passed proposition 35 which should be the object of much outrage, especially from people concerned with bodily autonomy, sex workers, and survivors of human trafficking. Melissa Gira Grant wrote on this issue at RH Reality Check, before the vote took place, that prop 35 was “a misguided ballot initiative that targeted the wrong people for the wrong reasons.” She argued that “advocates for survivors of trafficking, civil rights attorneys, and sex workers fear that rather than protect Californians, it will expose their communities to increased police surveillance, arrest, and the possibility of being labeled a “sex offender” for the rest of their lives.” A judge has already put the proposition on hold. Grant has written a follow-up in reaction to the proposition passing.

Most people already know that Maine, Maryland, and Washington all voted to extend marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples and Minnesota voters defeated a state constitutional amendment that would have limited marriage to only between a man and woman. Wisconsin electing Tammy Baldwin to the US Senate has also garnered a fair amount of attention since she will be the first openly gay US senator. Some lesser known but also noteworthy elections:

  • In Arizona’s 9th Congressional district, Kyrsten Sinema is leading (they are still counting votes). If she wins, she will be the first openly bisexual member of the US House. She’s a graduate of Brigham Young University and, having left the Mormon church, would be the only non-theist in Congress.
  • The 41st Congressional district in California elected Mark Takano. An educator from Riverside, California, Takano, an Asian American, will be the first openly gay person of color in the US Congress. He was publicly outed by a political opponent in a 1994 race and his sexuality was used against him. He has said about this election, “Times certainly have changed. And in my current race not a single voter has asked me about being gay.”
  • Pennsylvania’s 182nd district elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives former footballer Brian Sims. He is the first openly gay person elected to that body.

The city of Troy, Michigan, recalled its mayor, Janice Daniels. A tea partier, Daniels has made a number of homophobic remarks including a disparaging Facebook post and she used homophobic slurs while talking to local gay high school students.
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ELECTION 2012: Millennials Are Bringing It. Democrats Ignore Them At Their Peril

1:48 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Sarah Burris for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

This week, young people proved once again that they are a powerful force for political change. For example, 18- to 30-year-olds made up the largest margin of support for President Barack Obama in four key swing states, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, according to data from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Engagement (CIRCLE).

For weeks we heard from pundits and Republican operatives that the Romney campaign was going after young voters. Certainly Karl Rove’s organization Crossroads Generation coordinated significant outreach to young people, and the Romney campaign never conceded the President’s popularity with the Millennial Generation. But, once more, young voters came home to democratic candidates and progressive ideologies and did so in significant numbers.

CIRCLE is reporting that 22 to 23 million young voters voted. That’s half of the entire 18- to 30-year-old demographic! Moreover, young voters made up a higher share (19 percent) of the overall electorate this year than did voters over 65 years of age (16 percent). What else can we expect from the largest generation in history?

But to create a solid generation of Millennial progressives, Democrats need to take two critical steps. First, Democrats need to include Millennials in developing and supporting progressive policies. And second, need to dramatically improve efforts to meaningfully engage young adults in building grassroots political strength and leadership, far beyond the current paradigm.

One of the great political failures of the Obama Administration’s first term was in not effectively communicating either the President’s policy agenda or his successes to the electorate. The President himself said in a speech at the University of Virginia last spring that he should have talked to the American people a lot more about what he was doing when he was doing it. For example, after a number of members of Congress stuck their collective necks out to support passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the President did little to stop the Tea Party’s Summer of 2009 misinformation and intimidation campaign, which devoured moderate Republican and Democratic members across the country.

The only demographic group that fully supported the ACA was the Millennial Generation. Yet at no point were young people brought in by the White House to help evangelize this policy to peers and parents. And the Administration never enlisted young people around the country in supporting the members of Congress who helped ensure passage of the ACA. In 2010, youth voted in similar numbers to 2006, but it wasn’t nearly the extent to which they vote in Presidential races. That mixed with a conservative electorate resulted in the Tea Party Caucus. That could have been avoided with proper outreach.

The lesson here is to learn from the mistakes of 2010 by not allowing this to happen again in 2014. The White House must communicate to young people about issues beyond just education. Yes, college affordability is critically important, but we are more than a single issue voting bloc and some of us have moved beyond college. Young adults have a huge stake in veterans affairs since those coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan are our peers. We care about small businesses because we are entrepreneurial and eager to take our ideas to the market place. We care about family planning, because as it turns out babies are expensive, and when you’re first starting out it’s difficult to afford to start a family too, and some of us want to delay childbearing to first achieve other life goals.

Every policy discussion must include a young person at the table, because our perspective is one that is rarely offered by Beltway insiders. But much more than that, the President must leave Washington and come to us. Not at another public university campus, but at community colleges and trade schools or even creative tech companies outside of Silicon Valley.

The second problem is a political one. The Republican Party is making a play for the heart and soul of young voters because they recognize the power we hold over the long term. Whether it’s Karl Rove or the Pete Peterson Foundation investing in persuading young people to get rid of Social Security and Medicare, conservatives are spending a lot of partisan- and issues-based money to connect with young people. Democrats are not doing these things. A lot of Democratic money goes toward non-partisan youth voter registration efforts, and even more money is spent on developing a broad understanding of “civic engagement” efforts, and on go-nowhere white papers that college students can research and present in an academic setting. These things don’t move votes. They don’t decide issues. They don’t elect Democrats to office.

Ignoring the power of the Millennial Generation and its potential in electing democrats and progressives to office is like ignoring a piece of my momma’s chocolate cream pie at Thanksgiving. It’s a big mistake. The more young voters are ignored, the more Democrats will end up having to compromise principles and values to garner conservative votes. Think about what that does to our policy.

And know this: It doesn’t have to be that way.